A Professional Traveler's Guide To Colorado
Feb 25, 2023 By Sean William

Colorado has many exciting outdoor activities, making choosing just a few to highlight tough. Nevertheless, the San Juan Mountains in the state's southwestern region may be where you'll find the greatest concentration of wild adventures.

Heidi Wirtz, a Colorado native who has been leading rock climbing expeditions for almost two decades, and Jennings Hester, the founder of the charitable organization Fishing the Good Fight, are the only people in the world who are more equipped to navigate this difficult landscape.

These are a handful of the state's most challenging test pieces for seasoned travelers, ranging from rugged trekking routes to turbulent stretches of whitewater.

Scale The Cliffs Of The Grand Canyon

Black Canyon of the Gunnison, one of the country's less frequented national parks, is a sight to behold. Hiking down into "The Black," as the locals call it, and then rock-climbing back out is the most spectacular way to explore it.

You need a good deal of experience to venture down there. It's very intense," adds Wirtz, a qualified rock guide. Maiden Journey is one of the more accessible routes on the north rim, but she emphasizes that "nothing in the Black should be done lightly.

Hiring a local guide like Wirtz to walk you around the Precambrian granite walls is your best choice for staying safe. Peak Mountain Guides is the place to go if you need a guide for the Black Canyon.

Get a San Juan Fourteener

Wetterhorn Peak is a pleasant, slightly exposed Class 3 scramble located just outside of Lake City, and it offers the opportunity to bag a fourteener at an elevation of 14,015. The total distance covered is only seven miles round way, but you'll gain three thousand feet in elevation! You'll be rewarded with an unending panorama of jagged mountains.

Traverse The Ouray Via Ferrata

The Ouray Via Ferrata is a must-do for families looking for an adrenaline rush. It clips into the walls of the breathtaking Uncompahgre Gorge, directly across from the world-famous Ouray Ice Park and high above the river. T

his is one of just a handful of fantastic via ferrata routes in North America. There are about 4 kilometers of thrilling ascent and descent along the trip. Climbers use steel rungs and other safety equipment to scale vertical rock walls.

They are tied to a safety rope at all times. Afterward, head to the upper deck of Ouray Brewery for a refreshing pint of their Camp Bird Blonde Ale, which won several awards.

Get The Animas Out Of The Boat!

The Upper Animas River has nonstop Class IV and V whitewater and is a great place to go rafting if you're searching for genuine rapids in a breathtaking location. Start in Silverton and raft 12 miles of intense whitewater with Mountain Waters before the grand finale, a two-mile stretch of continuous, heart-pumping whitewater.

No one wants the good times to end when they pick up their takeaway. Ride the Rockwood Gorge back to Durango on the historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Don't immediately make plans to leave town; even relatively large cities like Silverton have fantastic festivals and boast interesting landmarks like the Grand Imperial Hotel, built in 1883 as a luxurious retreat by New York perfume and timber mogul W.S. Thompson.

Experience Ancient Times at Canyon of the Ancients

More than 30,000 archaeological sites exist in this national monument, more than any other in the United States. Learn about the Ancient Puebloans, who lived there for at least a millennium by seeing their kivas, communities, and sweat lodges.

Cabins at the Canyon of the Ancients Guest Ranch provide a peaceful retreat in the shadow of towering sandstone formations. In downtown Cortez, stop by WildEdge Brewing for some pulled-pork nachos and a Monkey Wrench Pale Ale.

Fish Durango's Mountain Lakes and Rivers

What about pike makes it such a fun fish to reel in? They're not just big; they're fierce combatants as well. It's better to hire experts, so schedule a trip with Duranglers and try your luck at reeling in a 20-pounder from Vallecito Lake.

The lake is one of the biggest in Colorado and is located about 18 miles from Durango in the San Juan National Forest at an elevation of 8,000 feet.

The San Juan River is a great place to put your technical abilities to the test. "It's one of the most tough rivers in the country," says Jennings Hester, whose organization utilizes fly-fishing to help individuals with mental health concerns.